Dynamo, workaholic, insomniac, leader – all these terms and more apply to this week’s guest, Druh Shah.
The periodontist, educator and founder of Dentinal Tubules talks us through his early years and some of the formative experiences that were the making of one of dentistry’s true legends.
Druh also chats leadership, vision, values, overcoming adversity and much more.
“Dentists were taught to deal with the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth. Ultimately…they think small, they think detailed, they think that bigger-picture thinking is missing. True leadership in dentistry’s thinking leadership is, “here’s a vision, let’s go towards it.”” – Druh Shah
01.10 – Early life
10.25 – Work ethic and a message from Kenya
17.00 – Fighting hard, building opportunities
27.03 – On visionary thinking
31.45 – Leadership & disruption
34.38 – ‘Work-life’ balance – a misnomer?
40.28 – A day in the life
49.40 – Druh’s darkest day
59.16 – Love nor money
01.03.20 – A word for posterity
Connect with Prav and Payman:
Druh Shah: As soon as you can eat on your plate, carry on. You know, like my friend Miguel Stanley says, and a lot of people say, “Don’t build a higher wall, build a bigger table for the bigger-ment of humanity because together we all succeed.” I think that was a philosophy ingrained in me from a very, very young age.
Intro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Payman L: So today on the podcast we’ve got the phenomenon that is Druh Shah, an educator, periodontist, sometimes people forget he’s available for, well, perio- referrals. Druh, thank you so much for coming in. I know you’re busy this-
Druh Shah: No, thank you for inviting me. I’m glad we managed to get a date in place.
Payman L: Yeah, no, I’ve realised how busy you are.
Prav Solanki: Tough man to pin down but-
Payman L: Definitely.
Prav Solanki: I’m sure this interview will be well worth it.
Payman L: Druh is, “You know, I’ve got half an hour between…” “I’ve got half an hour in October.” Druh, tell us a little bit about your early life. Where were you born? How did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
Druh Shah: I was born in Kenya, in Africa. My childhood, I tell you, was very nostalgic. My childhood was one of fun and serious African life childhood and maybe I shouldn’t disclose a lot of it, but I’ll tell you one thing. I think I spent less time in school and more time doing all sorts of silly things. But you grew up in a real community. You grew up with people knowing each other. Even though I grew up in Nairobi, it was people, small community, people knew each other, so I’ve always had a community feel. I grew up in a place which was not far from this untouched forest, at that point. Monkeys, baboons used to be in my backyard all the time. We even had a leopard walk into our backyard when I was a kid. So, I have this love of wildlife I grew up in. I just grew up in watching dichotomy of extremely rich people and extremely poor people, people who were barely surviving the day and you learn to appreciate life and more importantly, you realise actually it was the happier people were the ones who didn’t have things.
Druh Shah: I grew up in this environment of pure collaboration and giving. I think love did nothing, my dad, in that way, was a huge influence with everything. I grew up in the tourist industry. That was my dad’s approach. So I, from a very young age, he put, I think I was about seven or eight, and we had a shop we used to sell tourist goods and tourist curios. He put me in there and said, “Son, sell some stuff for me.” So perhaps I learned how to convince people that these were good products they should buy, but in a nice way did that. I did that. It’s kind of a really vast growing up of different experiences, multicultural, multi types of people. It was brilliant in all aspects overall. I think one thing I learned growing up was my, that society was still very close-minded. Coming to the UK, I’ve realised it’s different, it’s bigger, it’s open-minded.
Payman L: How old were you when you came?
Druh Shah: I was 18. I came here to study dentistry. I did my O-levels and A-levels in Kenya. My biggest passion has always been two big things. They’ve always been music and wildlife so I was a semi-pro wildlife photographer for many years before I started dealing with the microbes of perio. Music-wise, I always played recorder and did theory and all the other stuff that the geeks did. But I play the keyboard. So I did all that growing up there. A part of me has always been exploring beyond just what I do. It’s brilliant and it works from there. Invariably, I had a big, big influence with my sister who passed away five years ago. Massive rock in my life. She grew up in muscular dystrophy and she didn’t have working arms or working legs. A big thing I learned because she was discriminated against massively in Kenya. In that way, the society, the country, the community weren’t thinking. But her example showed me you can break barriers. She was the first person in her primary school to have a special aid unit built for her. Now the 100 people or something in that unit.
Druh Shah: She kind of set hell trailblazing and she was a rock in the life. Many times-
Payman L: Was she older than you?
Druh Shah: She was five years younger than me.
Payman L: Oh, she was younger than you, sorry.
Druh Shah: Yeah. But you see, you find times because everyone else was always very nice to her, very supportive in the family. But I was like the hard-knock brother. She would come home. There was a point she wanted to enter a school. She went there and they literally ignored her so she came back saying, “Just because I am disabled, does that mean that I should be ignored?” I went, “Listen, nobody gives a shit if you’re disabled or not, get on with it. Prove yourself, there’s no time for this.” Invariably, what that ended up doing was I became the person who motivated, inspired her. Because I didn’t take any sadness, just get on with it. When she passed away, she’d become a psychologist, a lawyer, a motivational speaker.
Prav Solanki: Oh my god.
Druh Shah: And she was writing a book. Without two hands or two legs. She was doing this and I felt like, “We’ve got fully functioning body and I’m just a dentist.” As a result, I’ve had to always push my barriers because the more I did, the more she did. The more she did, the more she believed in herself. The more she believed in herself, more I believed in myself. I pushed the barriers more and we kept egging each other on.
Payman L: A massive influence, inspiration to you.
Druh Shah: Yeah. Huge, huge. Five years ago when she went, it’s still a big hole. Massive. I think it’s hard, it was really hard. I’ve never mourned about it. I mean, she passed away on 10th of May, 2014. Eleventh of May we were down there, few days later we had a funeral. Sixteenth of May I was back at work and 17th of May I moved house and I never stopped. I’ve never had a chance to reflect, think, or mourn about it. I’ve just said, “I’ll carry on her spirit.” One day, I’ll break down about it but until then, what she believed in, what she did, is what I try and do to others. This is the kind of background I grew up in.
Druh Shah: I grew up in the… going and doing the wildlife photography in Africa, grew up in seeing the poor kids who barely could afford, forget school fees, they couldn’t afford 50 p for the daily lunch bread. We eat the big Nando’s here, piri-piri chickens or whatever, but they did not afford simple, simple stuff. It has a huge impact on you that you see people who have full potential in life, and they can’t achieve this, and you’ve got to, got to, got to give them a way. Ultimately, that became part of my purpose. Two big things became part of my purpose. Helping people achieve their potential and inspiring people to know that they can achieve their potential.
Payman L: In the third world, it’s easy to put that pain and suffering into the background radiation to stop feeling it because it’s everywhere.
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Payman L: Do you think it’s because of your sister, or is there something else about you that made you actually think about that?
Druh Shah: I think it’s more than just my sister, more than the society I grew up in. Those two are big factors. I think it’s my parents, as well. That they were giving type. My dad was an entrepreneur, as well. I don’t know how many businesses he’s done, had good luck, and bad luck through it all. But he never stopped giving. He never stopped giving. I think there was that strong influence that, listen, as soon as you can eat on your plate, carry on. Like my friend Miguel Stanley says, and a lot of people say, “Don’t build a higher wall, build a bigger table for the bigger-ment of humanity because together we all succeed.” I think that was a philosophy ingrained in me from a very, very young age.
Druh Shah: The sister’s influence, seeing this all the time as an influence, having parents with that, I think it was far too much subconsciously probably putting it in my system.
Payman L: How did it feel arriving in the UK from that life with the colours, the weather, the food, and then arriving in the UK. Had you been to the UK several times before that or what was your story?
Druh Shah: I came to the UK maybe when I was about six years old and never been before. I mean, after that.
Payman L: After that.
Druh Shah: I came here for about five days for my interviews and that’s it. Never really experienced the city. I tell you what, it was a culture shock. I moved to Sheffield where I knew no one and didn’t realise, bloody hell, it gets dark by three o’clock here. You talk about the weather and it gets cold.
Payman L: No leopards in the
Druh Shah: All this is different animals in the pubs and the bars. You kind of see a whole different society, different culture, which was a big challenge. Now, one of the biggest things I found was in university. I think a lot of the people who came to university, there was a culture of, “Let’s go out, let’s go drinking, let’s go do this.” Now, I’ve done that since I was 13, in school, being the rebel. It wasn’t exciting for me. When I got into university, something like Freshers’ week, where everyone’s downing the shots and I kind of sat there and thought, “What next?”
Payman L: Plus you’re paying foreign fees and you’ve got the struggle to get here in the first place, so you’re going to make the most of the education, right?
Druh Shah: I think that was part of it, part of it. But also I think by this time I was probably two steps ahead
Payman L: You’d lived out that-
Druh Shah: Lived that out and also two steps ahead in the fact of this life experience I might have had. But what really shocked me into system was the third year, because the fees I was paying was about 20 grand a year, and then, your living expenses. But in my third year, my dad sent me a text message and said, “Druh, everything we’ve had has been wiped out. You’ve got to quit and come back.”
Prav Solanki: Jeez.
Druh Shah: “There is no way I can pay your fees anymore.”
Payman L: Business failed?
Druh Shah: Well, business failed, it was Africa. A few banks collapsed and all of our savings went down the, well, wherever they went. It was very surreal as a moment because if this is a movie, beep beep, someone picks a text up and there’s a frozen moment. It wasn’t. A text came, money’s gone. You go, “Okay, I’ve got to move on. I’ve got to think of solutions.”
Druh Shah: Next thing, I had 100 CVs and I was out there in Meadow Hall giving them out and going out to the shops and going, “Right, who’s giving me a job here?” Because I said to my dad, “I’m not coming back.” Let’s face it, when I first came and with the crap weather and new people, I was going to quit then. My dad said, “Fine, if you want to quit, come back.” I said, “Thanks, Dad. Now you told me, I’m going to behave the other way around and I’m going to be a rebel.”
Druh Shah: Come the third year, I said the same. “I’m going to survive.” Nine-to-five you do university, 5:00 you get on to the train to Meadow Hall. Six to 11:00 you’re on your feet, selling shoes at Revel. I’ve worked in burger bars, I’ve worked in shoe shops, I’ve worked in chocolate shops. I can tell you every chocolate at that point in time.
Payman L: You earned the money to pay your fees?
Druh Shah: I earned the money, I got a small scholarship at home, I borrowed money, I did anything and everything. I don’t know where, when, how, but we managed it through. I graduated-
Payman L: For that year? Or for
Druh Shah: The next three years.
Payman L: You’re kidding me.
Druh Shah: For three years. My debt was 84,000 when I graduated. But beyond me, there was a purpose. Ultimately, the purpose was that, and I couldn’t quit because it was me and my sister and my family. Everyone had their hopes on me, I couldn’t let anyone down. But more importantly, it was for my own self. It was a challenge and it was almost life saying, “Bring it on.” I mean, “What can you throw at me?”
Prav Solanki: Everyone knows you’re a workaholic, right?
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: Everyone knows you do these crazy hours. Up early, bed late, and you don’t stop and you don’t switch off. Did that start when you were doing Uni at day, work at night?
Druh Shah: Possibly. I mean, I think it started before that, before I came here for Uni. The problems, the troubles had begun. I mean, I was always a learning geek so at home I was doing four A-levels. I was doing my music grade A at that time, I was still doing my wildlife photography. I’ve always been in and around, I’m a geek.
Payman L: IT geek, as well.
Druh Shah: IT geek, as well, probably. My dad says I’m misplaced in dentistry. My family say, “You should have gone into IT.” Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t exist. No. That’s what they say. But I think everything has a purpose and reason. But the university definitely intensified that, that you come home at midnight, you don’t eat. I’ve gone through days without food. I’ve gone through days living off Maryland double chocolate chip cookies.
Prav Solanki: They’re damn good, though.
Druh Shah: They’re super and I’m addicted to biscuits now but there’s a guy near our house who sold me four massive packs. Not the normal size, the large size, packs for a pound. Four packs, you have to see it in my bag, and I’d have a little bit at breakfast, a little bit at lunch, and a little bit at 4:00.
Prav Solanki: Jeez.
Druh Shah: I’d finish until midnight, living off biscuits. Sometimes, if I got into Sheffield City Centre in good time, there was a chippy there and you knew this guy will turn up. He’d keep some chips and two samosas for me, 50 p, every time, with mint sauce. I remember eating these on my way home. I’d get home for midnight to half twelve, and I’d work until 2:00-3:00. We lived in a massive house and by 5:00-6:00 you’re awake and-
Prav Solanki: Work til 2:00-3:00?
Druh Shah: Studying. Studying until 2:00-3:00.
Prav Solanki: So your typical day, just map this out for me. You wake up at what time? Just give me a day in the life of university, as Druh.
Druh Shah: University, wake up at, look, we were in a house of five people with one shower. If you didn’t get up in time, you were late. So up at 5:00, 5:30 I’d be in the shower. I’d come back to the room, I’d do some reading, I’d do my, whether I’d do my self-awareness, my meditation bits, I’d do whatever needs doing, get that
Prav Solanki: You’re meditating and self-aware at that time in university, were you?
Druh Shah: Yeah. I’ve always been-
Prav Solanki: Way before this became a fashionable thing to do, right?
Druh Shah: That’s right.
Prav Solanki: Was it guided meditation? Were you reading books? Was
Druh Shah: It was none of that. It was… meditation’s being with yourself.
Prav Solanki: Of course.
Druh Shah: Sit down, just chill, breathe and chill.
Prav Solanki: Okay.
Druh Shah: It’s before it became fashionable. Yoga’s had influence when I was a kid and it is just sit and think. That’s what I did for a bit. I used to work, I used to read other books, I did a lot of stuff then. Then, 7:00, breakfast, half-seven we’d walk down to university. You’d have uni from your 9:00-5:00. Five o’clock I’d walk to the tram, it takes about 45 minutes to get to Meadow Hall where I worked. So 6:00 you get there, and you’re straight on the shop floor, 6:00-10:00. Christmas time, 6:00-11:00 you’d be pretty much-
Prav Solanki: Five days a week or?
Druh Shah: Legally, I was only allowed to work 20 hours a week at the maximum, so that’s what we did. Other days I was, in the evenings, working at home. I then would come back home about 11:00 or 12:00, time to do the assignments, my revision. I’m not the guy who does last minute exam revision. So, I always stayed up and then 2:00-3:00, I’d go to bed, having done that. Part of me always wanted a website so I built a mega portfolio of Kenya. Every single lodge, every single phone part. I used to do that as a side project at that point.
Druh Shah: I had a tutor who was doing the diploma, at least, very clever guy but he said, “I don’t know how to use Microsoft Word.” So he’d give me his write-up and I’d type up his assignment. Not the work, but just type it up and then email him and say, “There.” That was my revision. Various things I used to do. There’s not enough hours in the day, ever.
Prav Solanki: No socials, no parties, no-
Druh Shah: I used to, every now and then, but not as heavy as most people. Going out and doing that, now and then I’d get drunk, but not as much. There was a focus and a drive and I had to do this because I… survival. That was my gig at that point. And it’s a philosophy I carry on. Socials and parties somehow, I struggle with them. Maybe I’m an anti-socialite, I don’t know. But it’s part of the game that I think that what I did was-
Prav Solanki: Bigger cause. Yeah.
Druh Shah: The thing is, I graduated with this big debt and there was a rule at that time, in the UK, foreign national, you can’t work in the country. Off you go, back home. So I kind of sat there and thought, “I’ve got an 84,000 pound debt and I’ve got to now go back home. No way.” At that point, you can see on television there was these long queues of patients outside dentists in the sort of outreach areas of the country. Big issues in Wales and someone alerted it to me and so we went to speak to a Dean.
Druh Shah: I said, “Dean, listen. You’ve got a problem. I’ve got a problem. You’ve got a problem, no dentists. I’ve got problem, no job. Sort this out.” We were the first group with a Welsh parliament who got the approval to do VT in Wales. The conditions were: one, you must go to the complete nether region; two, you must stay there for at least two years; and three, may you must show evidence of post-graduate education. I said, “That’s all fine. Your guys will pay for my education.” Which they did. But, ultimately, it put it to me that if you fight hard, you can build your opportunities.
Druh Shah: Part of my vision became nobody should go through what I did. Education through the world was my first vision. Help people, give them the access, break down the barrier. Enough. All these years, division’s slowly unravelling itself. But that really drove things forward. Over the years, I’ve thought outside the box. I’ve always found ways to make things happen and I think if any of these young dentists come going, “Dentistry’s hard. We’re going to get sued. This is…” No, it’s not. It’s… find your opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone. Find your ways and niche and you will seriously go. You know, mid-Wales, I was only Indian dentist in town. Even then, we used to do stuff and there was no referrals. There was no one else so we had to do all the treatments.
Prav Solanki: Druh, it’s easy for you. I don’t mean… I mean it with the greatest respect. It’s easy for you to sit there and say it’s not difficult but you are a character and a half, okay? I think about sometimes people talk about these problems or when you face a problem, if you think hard enough and try hard enough, the solution will come, right?
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: There’s the old, I don’t know where this story comes from, but the truck that got caught under the bridge. The further the truck went, the more damaged it got, and then he tried to back out and it was stuck. Then, some little kid in the background said, “Why don’t you let the tyres down?” The truck went through. That’s what I think when I think of you. Because when you face this adversity, you find a solution. You work your Meadow Hall job or you go to Wales or whatever. Nothing’s too difficult you say. What do you think it is about you, as an individual, your make-up that makes you who you are? There are not many people like you that have got that drive, that ambition, and that pig-headed discipline, I’d call it. Just the, “You know what? Throw whatever you want at me. Come and get it.”
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: “I’m going to prove you all wrong.”
Druh Shah: Look, it’s actually, everyone’s like me. It’s the potential’s there. It’s how you tap into it.
Prav Solanki: Okay.
Druh Shah: It’s only recently I’ve started discovering this and knowing this, which is where we are going now for the next 10 years with Tubules. But on your left, where we set now, you’ll see a book. It’s called Passionate Work. It’s understanding passion and grit. Those are my two books I’m reading at present in the [inaudible 00:20:37]. Ultimately, it is becoming that. Adversity creates a person. Unbelievably, adversity creates a person. Part of me, all this adversities created me. But we’re all faced with adversity every day. It’s how you handle that adversity and how you build that mindset. Tony Robbins has made billions teaching people this. But more importantly, he’s taught people this mindset creation. The fact is, mindset creation is created through education, through surrounding yourself with the right people. It’s extremely, extremely powerfully important to surround yourself with the right community of people. I’m going to say this in a twisted way, but you go on Facebook and you find a mix of it.
Druh Shah: Some things on Facebook are helpful. Some things on Facebook are absolutely powerfully negative and you may just scroll past these things, but they’ve entered your subliminal subconscious. Now, if you keep scrolling past six things saying, “Dentistry’s shit, dentistry’s this,” guess what? It’s going to enter your brain. Stop it. Find the community that’s positive and working for you. That takes that one step of thinking away for you to say, “Is this a positive or negative post? Should I take it in?” Find that. You then start building the mindset that takes you into the passion pathway. The truth is, the more I’ve studied this, the more I’ve realised, I had to do it out of pure situational circumstantial stuff. But I learned things that help you develop this. If you start pressing those buttons, my God, the potential for every single one of us is absolute powerful.
Druh Shah: I worked out this philosophy over the last couple of months that is called motivate, grow, thrive. That’s what I think we do at Tubules. We motivate you first. Then, you help you grow into what you want to be because that’s when you thrive. You probably have been through 20 years, but that’s what, hopefully that answers what you’re saying. It’s doable. Anyone can do it.
Prav Solanki: Just that you’ve unlocked it, right?
Druh Shah: Sorry?
Prav Solanki: You’ve unlocked it.
Druh Shah: I guess I’m unlocking it.
Prav Solanki: You’re unlocking it.
Druh Shah: Don’t know if I’ve unlocked it but I’m unlocking it. I had the natural instinct to unlock it like any pioneer I had to dig the grass out, but there’s a pathway I can now see and people can walk through that pathway.
Prav Solanki: Your visions are Tubules. That obviously started in its grass roots when you were struggling and you wanted to make… if I’m understood you right, education accessible to all. Is that right?
Druh Shah: Part of it. But there’s a backstory again that carries on from here because I graduated. I went through this difficulty, so my first value became that nobody should go through this. I must help them for education to the world. But then I went to do my perio specialties training and within the first year I was going to quit because although I had the world’s best intellectual people, God’s sake they could not inspire me. Because I’m a nutter and an out-of-box thinker. I started Tubules then. But it was that connection of people that Tubules brought me with that brought back my inspiration.
Druh Shah: My big sort of things I want to give people now for Tubules is not just education. Beyond education, what do we want to do? From our end, our values become we want to help people. We want to then inspire them, build that fire in their belly, not under their bum, and connect these inspired people around. You connect these inspired people together and God’s sake you can see the energy that builds up there. The way you do that is you motivate people, you grow them, and you thrive them. That’s what we give every Tubulite the ability to motivate themself and to grow to a level where they thrive.
Prav Solanki: Community, one of the things I see, whether it’s on Facebook, wherever. Even if it’s just a conversation with someone, I mean these people have names. The Tubulites. Okay, yeah. Your followers.
Payman L: Yeah. Followers.
Prav Solanki: But it is and the one thing that keeps coming back to me is the beginning of this interview, that you were brought up in a community and community was strength and everything and you witnessed that, everyone coming together, working together as a team. Is that where the Tubules’ foundation was grown, do you think, in terms of… the first thing that came to my mind was connecting that with Tubules. Does that relate?
Druh Shah: Totally. Totally. As part of my discovery, I’ve realised I’m just reliving my inside on the outside with Tubules. I think it is, it has come from that. The communities, the collaboration, the people. The biggest power in this world is people and resource. Look at China, one billion people. That’s why it’s thriving. But the biggest, it’s power is people. If you can bring people of the same values together, that’s what creates that momentum. That’s what it is. If you can do that, it works really well. Passionate people, when they’re really passionate, it’s not just an intense love for what they do. Passionate dentists or people, it’s not intensely just loving what they do. It’s actually not just investing the time for what they do, but they develop an identity.
Druh Shah: You start building these behaviours and actions that fit what you do and that’s what Tubulites call themselves proudly because that’s their identity. We’re Tubulites because our behaviour is about working together with others, to help and inspire others while we grow ourself. We’re motivating and growing and thriving, but we’re doing that to others. That community, that identity, comes to place. I’ve always seen that. Community together helps people build identities together. If you can do that, everything else just kind of works. Seth Godin talks about tribes. It’s part of that picture.
Druh Shah: If you think about it, yes, my whole backstory of my community, I grew up in my backstory about the bigger world, the environment, doing good for the world. My backstory about motivating my sister, all of these things seem to be feeding the Tubules, motivating people, building community, building it together. But here’s a powerful thing. Let’s go back to dentistry. Let’s go back to talking about BDA, who are meant to represent dentists. These people who sit and say, “Actually, we’ve asked the government and they’re not listening.” Listen, government’s never going to listen because it’s an extrinsic problem.
Druh Shah: We, as dentists, have super values within us. We want to deliver top quality care for our patients. We want to look after people, ultimately. That’s why you went into dentistry, and the money comes as a side effect of that because you do this. You’re building trust with another human being, all these things. I want to build a community of the right values’ people. People who want to help out each other because you know what? That community of dentists in the future is going to go out to the public and engage with the public to change the face of dentistry as a profession. To say, we are not the money grubbers and fast car driving people. We’re interested in you. There’s a whole… we’re building this pathway. If we can engage the public, guess what’s going to happen? A real momentum boost for the profession. But you need a really powerful community.
Druh Shah: Beyond education and motivating people, it’s a bigger picture thinking
Payman L: Why do you think dentistry suffers with the disunity we sometimes see?
Druh Shah: It suffers from the dis unity that we see now and then is because we’ve never touched down to the values. If you think about dentists, dentists were taught to deal with the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth. Ultimately, they think like that. They think small, they think detailed, they think that bigger picture thinking is missing. True leadership in dentistry’s thinking leadership is, “Here’s a vision. Here’s a vision, let’s go towards it.” What’s his name, “I have a dream.” Who kind of said there-
Prav Solanki: Luther King.
Druh Shah: Luther King. There were thousands of people there. Do you think those thousands of people were there because they saw Martin Luther King’s dream? No. They were there because they had the same dream as him. Their values aligned and he said, “You’ve got that dream I have here, so a vision. This is where we will go.” Dentistry needs that. Dentistry is disunited because all these people with different values are not being brought together under one vision, under one mission. That vision is very clear. It’s we’re looking after patients.
Druh Shah: How we look after them is different and what people end up doing because of the details, they start looking at how you do something and what you do and how you do something and what you do. Our hows may be different, our whats may be different, or whys the same. There is nobody who has worked hard enough to bring that why together.
Payman L: I think one side of it is because we’re interested in patient care and we seem to be interested in patient care that sometimes gives you the licence to be rude to each other because we’re so worried about the patient.
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Payman L: You know what I mean?
Druh Shah: Yeah. That’s the how. Again, I’m rude to you because you’ve done patient care the way I wouldn’t do patient care.
Payman L: Yeah.
Druh Shah: Then, I think, “You didn’t skin the cat the way I skin the cat.” If I sit there and say, “Listen, help, inspire, connect, our three powers are. I’m going to help that patient, I’m going to inspire them, and motivate them to look after their health. I’m going to connect them with other patients who are like that.” Blimey hell. Now we’re singing from the same hymn sheet. If we sing from the same hymn sheet, we’re going to say, “It’s fine. You skin that cat a different way.” But you know what, brilliant. Obviously, I think UK society doesn’t celebrate success as much as, I don’t know, American or Indian or other societies, if you’re doing well.
Druh Shah: UK society likes to almost bring people down who are rising up. I’ve seen this, definitely. Do we celebrate success better? Do we celebrate that someone’s done something well for patients? Is this an initiative we should take? In fact, I’ll put it out to you. Your products enlighten the composite you use with their enamel. They’re going after changing patients’ lives, aren’t they? All day long. Can we use this as an initiative to say, “How will dentists change a patient’s life?” I don’t know. But we think there’s some power amidst all this.
Payman L: I think certainly with Tubules, that purpose-driven endeavour, people can see when something’s purpose-driven. People can feel it. We could sit down with my marketing team and we could say, “Listen, we’re putting all this amazing whitening stuff out and people can see that purpose makes something happen. So let’s put out a purpose-driven thing.” People would see straight through that. But with Tubules, because of you, really, it’s different. It’s different from the beginning and it’s been difficult to even give you sponsorship. I mean, I know we had the discussion about, you came over, you said, “Hey, I’m doing this thing.” I said, “Well, do we need another GDPUK?” We’re talking 10 years ago. That was 10 years
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Payman L: I said, “Do we need another forum? Is the internet even going to work?” I didn’t have any money and then you never followed up and your purpose wasn’t profit.
Druh Shah: It never is.
Payman L: It never is. People can feel that and interestingly, when the purpose isn’t profit, people get behind it in a nice way sometimes. Not always.
Druh Shah: Not always. Look, everyone’s got different values.
Payman L: With this leadership that you’ve got going on, I mean, were you always naturally the leader of the gang when you were skipping off school?
Druh Shah: No, I was
Payman L: Grown into this?
Druh Shah: I wasn’t. I was a rebel without a cause. I was not a leader of a gang because I couldn’t go in with a gang because they all had the same approach. I had
Payman L: Outside?
Druh Shah: I was this outsider, who watched things, and quietly made, and quietly did something differently and then managed to piss people off. Now, I jokingly say, “I’ve got two hashtags I love living by. One is hashtag rebel without a cause. And now it seems like there is. The second one is hashtag piss them off.” Because if you piss them off you disrupt things and think differently. Yeah, that’s what
Payman L: I can imagine you sitting around the board table with… going through that must kill you. That must kill you, having to go through the process of a board meeting. You have to stand up and be the inspirational guy in the-
Druh Shah: Sitting around a board and discussing-
Prav Solanki: Minutiae.
Druh Shah: Having a meeting about a meeting doesn’t excite me. No purpose, get the result. What’s the outcome? Ultimately, we need to do that anyway. But yeah, that’s me. We’re going to get there. How are we going to get there? That’s ultimately what it is. For me, yeah, profit is someone’s changing life. I’ll tell you a story of a guy who was within that NHS treadmill, struggling day in, day out. His family life was suffering. He had a five-year-old kid at that point and he was with his wife, and strain and tension in their relationship, and all this happening. Someone picked him out and said, “Become a study director.” He got Tubulized, ultimately, he got Tubulized. Or he got the disease.
Prav Solanki: Tubulite gets tubulized.
Druh Shah: This disease called Tubulitis, which is the energy, the inspiration. But he then, he got so passionate about industry, he changed cities. He now travels a bit. But I’ll tell you what happened. His life changed. His quality of life changed. He got more time with his wife and more time with his kid. Now, I was sitting in a lecture and out of the blue, this WhatsApp message came. My phone goes, “Ping ping ping” all the time and you have the… but I just, this message caught my eye. “Thank you for introducing us to a world we never even thought existed in UK dentistry. Our lives are better for it.”
Druh Shah: Not our education, not our knowledge. But our lives. That’s not their lives, it’s that 80-year-old’s life, with two happy parents. That’s going to make that kid grow up into a super future. You think 10 steps beyond just getting this guy to run a study club and deliver some education. That’s what it does. Tubulitis is all about that. Changing lives like this, that’s the profit that delivers for me. If I can do that day now, and dentistry’s in a place right now where there’s so many people disillusioned. Which is why I always say, “We want to motivate, grow, and thrive them.” We’ve got to do it.
Prav Solanki: So, Druh, you’ve just touched upon a point about this guy, whoever it was, that his work-life balance or family life was suffering. Just talk to me a little bit about what your life is like outside of dentistry, if it does exist. Who is involved in that, and do you actually have a work-life balance?
Druh Shah: I don’t. Because I think for passionate people, like me, work-life balance is a misnomer.
Prav Solanki: Okay.
Druh Shah: It’s almost saying, you’re asking me to think that what I do is work. It’s not. My life is my work, if you will, my work is my life. But I love it. But here’s my important part for me, which I’ve learned. I was obsessively passionate enough to do this all the time. It can happen that other parts suffer. More than work-life balance, it was self-awareness to realise when I need to stop. It’s almost like running a marathon. You run a marathon, if you’re running every day you’re going finish your muscles. Recovery is needed for those muscles to grow even stronger. Then, you run the marathon stronger. Now when you’re resting, it doesn’t mean you’re not working. You’re still subconsciously processing things.
Druh Shah: Twenty-four hours a day, technically, at some level or another, my brain is working. I’m working. But I’m probably not actively and constantly engaged with work. That’s the work-life balance. Outside of my work, life is family, at level. My wife, who thinks that I should be spending more time with her often enough, and I have an 18 month old toddler.
Prav Solanki: Wow.
Druh Shah: Probably, for the first time my life, I put my phone and gadgets away and spend dedicated time with him, doing stuff and realising this. At this point, I guess, that it’s very an important thing that I say and Anoop, who we lost last week and that a real, tragic shocking thing. Now, in April, I did a talk on fear of failure and how Tubules nearly failed and it’s a talk worth watching for a lot of people scared of failure. A lot of people say it was one of the most powerful talks and it got their nerve, got their hearts, got their soul. But Anoop said something very important, “Through his Tubulite we’ll find another tubules, but your son won’t find another father.” I tell you what, the man gave me, it was like an elder brother. But I sit there with him, and every time I spend time with my boy, I remember Anoop. Part of my life is him. Because part of my responsibilities to motivate this kid so he grows and thrives into a positive life.
Druh Shah: Other part of my work-life is this Tubules foundation charity that we’ve built with a vision to build 10 schools around the world. These 10 schools are going to have children there who don’t need a teacher because we’ll use the technology to change their life. They will teach each other. I invest time in that to doing stuff along there. Obviously, I need to spend time with my own fitness and my own personal health, but I still engage as much as I can. What I enjoy, my photography, or my time with nature, or my music. I do all that and that’s why I can’t sleep much, because-
Prav Solanki: How much do you sleep?
Druh Shah: I get two to three hours on a good night.
Payman L: Jesus.
Payman L: Wow. Jeez.
Druh Shah: That’s what I survive on. Don’t quote me that book that says sleeps help your brain develop ultimately-
Prav Solanki: You read the book?
Druh Shah: No, I don’t think I’ve read
Payman L: He doesn’t want to read it.
Druh Shah: I don’t want to read it.
Payman L: Before you came, you were saying you go to bed when I go to bed. But then you wake up when Prav wakes up.
Prav Solanki: Yeah, it’s a perfect combination. This morning I was up at 4:15 but I was tucked up by 9:15, 10:00. Pay goes to bed at 3:00 and wakes up much later and you’re a combo of Pay and Prav.
Payman L: Jeez. That can’t be healthy though, Bud, can it?
Druh Shah: I don’t know. Maybe not but I’d rather, listen, my philosophy is I’d rather live a short, impactful life than a long one where the government’s messed my pensions up. But it’s that, I think there’s just, even if I try to sleep, I can’t.
Payman L: Yeah.
Druh Shah: There’s drive, there’s passion, there’s this energy within me that gets me up at 5:00 going, “Oh, good, an idea. This light bulb that doesn’t let you sleep.” Now, I’ve got a toddler who’s like that.
Prav Solanki: Do you feel whacked? I mean, do you feel, do you ever walk around feeling like a zombie or? Sometimes, if I can’t sleep at night for whatever, my brain’s firing away and then-
Payman L: But the thing is, you get used to-
Prav Solanki: No, no, no I get that. Because people ask me, “Why do I wake up early?” But do you walk around feeling completely whacked? Or have you completely normalised-
Druh Shah: It depends who I’m walking with. If I’m on my own, I’m fine. If I’m with energetic people, I’m on the move, that sort of thing.
Payman L: For all we know, that lack of sleep that he’s got cuts out the bullshit. For all we know. That’s the cat he is. If he slept, there’d be loads of crap, cobwebs in his head. You know what I mean? For all we know, that could be it. He’s definitely thriving, isn’t he?
Prav Solanki: No, without question. Just to give you an insight into that book, the guy talks about the sum total of people who are better off when you take an average with less than seven or eight hours sleep or whatever. It rounds up to zero, okay. However, he’s talking about an average and the sum total, so maybe you’re that tiny, tiny outlier. Outlier, yeah?
Payman L: He’s definitely an outlier.
Druh Shah: Every now and then I’ll get moments when I’ll just knock out for hours on end. That’s my recharge. Tesla. That sort of thing really. I’ll do that every few months.
Payman L: That happens to me, too. That happens to me, too. Maybe once a month. Once a month I end up-
Prav Solanki: Have a good night’s sleep? Or a good day’s sleep?
Druh Shah: Or something.
Prav Solanki: Yeah.
Druh Shah: It does that but I guess it’s the way it worked. But that’s what enables me to achieve things I do and keep that work-life balance and watch things, do things, engage with people, all this. More importantly, I think the lesson learned is focus and you can easily, if you don’t know your values, your priorities, which I probably was still finding, you can easily get sidetracked, which wastes time and focus becomes very important. Michael Hyatt’s book is worth reading on that. But once you know your focus, the hardest thing-
Prav Solanki: What’s it called?
Druh Shah: Michael Hyatt, something on focus. It is focus is the main word on it.
Payman L: Hyatt?
Druh Shah: I’ll tell you that focus It’s a very good book. The hardest thing to do is say, “No.” I’ve learned to do that more and more now. Say, “No.” It’s brilliant. It’s not just brilliant for me, because I say, “No,” and I suddenly realise I’m glad I said, “No,” because ultimately this was not going to contribute to where this road is leading, the path, the vision, But it’s so funny because people want to join Tubules and we’ve realised, it’s a misconception out there at CPD website and the people are going, “Well, why are you seven times more expensive than others?” But we’re using CPD to motivate people. It’s not there. These people, I’ve said, “Look, we’re not seven times more expensive than others. Actually, this is not for you, because you’re looking for something else.”
Prav Solanki: Yeah.
Druh Shah: That ability to say, “No,” to them has turned things around for people to say, “Wait, wait, wait. What do you mean, ‘Not for me?'” It starts and they come in. From a business, I hate calling it business, I call it project point of view, 12 months, our revenues have gone up 136% on the ability to say, “No.” Focus and no have become one of the biggest things for me, interestingly.
Payman L: Druh, what’s a typical day for you? I know you’ve got perio days, you said, two days a week, is that?
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: Short days from, what was it, 9:00 to 7:00?
Druh Shah: Nine to seven is my day in clinic.
Payman L: Maybe we’ll get to perio, but on a Tubules day-
Druh Shah: It’s variable.
Payman L: What time you waking up?
Druh Shah: I’m normally up between 4:30 and 5:00, something like that. And it’s normally either I wake up, or my toddler wakes me up, one of the two. What I now do is I spend that first half an hour, whatever it is, an hour, whatever time I’ve got available, doing nothing. Coffee, reflecting, it’s as if I’m meditating.
Prav Solanki: Don’t pick your phone up?
Druh Shah: No. I used to, I don’t know. I love a quick glimpse but that’s it. I don’t do more than replying to things or anything like that. Just if anything urgent sitting down. But you learn to do that. That’s typically about 6:00, 6:30 he’s up and you get him ready and drop him to school and normally by 7:30, 8:00 I’m back into the start of the day. That day may be that we’re filming, in which case I’ll be on my way to the studio.
Payman L: Is there an office?
Druh Shah: No, we have a mobile studio. Filming could be done at a conference, filming could be done in a hotel room, wherever. That day could be meetings. I will not schedule meetings early in the day for that reason, simply because I use the first few hours, if I’m not driving, really focusing on the jobs because that’s when my peak performance hours are. Nighttime, between 12:00-3:00, and morning between 7:00-10:00. I’ll do all the tasks I need, at that energy and attachment and drive. Then, 10:00 I might have meetings. I might have things going on. It may be we’re filming. While we’re doing all this, the phone calls, the WhatsApps, the Facebooks, all these messages carry on, so between that you’re always answering
Payman L: Are there employees?
Druh Shah: There are six people in the team, doing the job of 38 people. Better than it was three yeas ago when I was one person doing the job of 38 people while doing dentistry full-time and operating Tubules. I built it with no sleep, all the money, all the time. Everything I had went into it. I was a
Payman L: How much cash do you think you’ve put into it?
Druh Shah: I’ll be honest with you, probably in excess of 120 grand of my cash has gone into the business. If you invest the time and everything else you’d be silly, but there’s at least 120 grand and there was an amount that was paid back, which I’m not even including in that.
Payman L: Told you were hitting a cash crisis and you had to just fund it?
Druh Shah: I had to find investors. More than cash crisis, I was eating a five point of personal person crisis. I could only work until 38 people. I couldn’t replicate myself to work into 39 or 40 people. It was a point, not only that, but Tubules was growing. Tubules was becoming much, more more, more users. Invariably, my duties to serve and support them. So, individually, I couldn’t do so much so I had to bring a team on board. That’s when we went to our first round of funding, three years ago.
Prav Solanki: How’d you go about finding another Druh Shah who’s going to take that load as an individual, and he’s going to do the work of six, seven, eight people?
Druh Shah: You can’t. You can’t. Our next round of funding’s to bring more people. I’ve now got to build a team and that’s part of my growth process. From being an individual, I’ve got to become a leader. What powers a team to become leaders and deliver the vision?
Prav Solanki: But those six people are still doing the job of more than one individual, right?
Druh Shah: Yes.
Prav Solanki: There must be something special about them-
Payman L: Or you.
Prav Solanki: Or you. Are they staying after 5:30 a lot?
Druh Shah: Listen, here’s a story I’ll tell you. One day at, Ifti’s our content manager, and the guy who does the online support with me. Ifti’s a PhD guy, he’s done PhD in a medical, microbiology. He’s an academic. You go to his house, massive library, very cool guy, very intelligent guy, he’s like me, an insomniac. One, two o’clock at night we will have on our WhatsApp group, this next-level intellectual conversation about psychology or behavioural science or adult learning. But here’s the story I’ll tell you to answer your question.
Druh Shah: One day, at 2:30 at night, we were having this conversation. I asked a question, “By the way, randomly, what happened to that event or something that had happened?” David, our CFO stepped in and said, “Yeah, I’m dealing with it.” Kallah, who’s our operations, at 3:00 at night went in and said, “Druh, by the way, I spoke to this guy, as well.” Jemeesh, who you know, does our media, went, “Yeah, just I’ve got the filming date, my diary.” I went, “Guys, it’s 3:00 AM. What the hell are you guys doing?” The response was, “We’ve got Tubulitis, as well, Druh.” This is the team.
Prav Solanki: Unbelievable.
Druh Shah: I don’t tell them when to work, how they work. They work when they want, how. It’s what I’ve instilled in them, is this is our vision, let’s make a change. You decide how, when, what you want to do, as long as we achieve these steps in the way. That’s how I like doing things. I think that’s what the team is about. It’s that energy, that drive, that passion.
Druh Shah: Our first conference, in 2017, Ifti was with us until midnight. He then took everything to the editor and went home to bed. At 4:00, he was back at the editor’s picking things up, so he was operating on my sleep routine. He then said to me, “Druh,” or he didn’t say to me, he said somebody else, “If this was any other corporate, bloody hell I’d be pissed off, asking for more pay, and going home. But Druh, I just love, I’m having fun doing this.” That’s the bit. I think we hit something there, where he loved what he was doing.
Payman L: Yeah, it’s quite interesting, isn’t it? The fun element.
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Payman L: Yeah? Do you actively enjoy-
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Payman L: I know you do. But do you make it fun for everyone else?
Druh Shah: Absolutely.
Payman L: Go on.
Druh Shah: We always make it fun and energetic for people. We make it fun and energetic from a viewpoint of first, “Do you all align to the vision?” Every person we’ve hired said, “There’s no pay for six months, will you come and work for us?” It’s a joke. But it’s to understand they’re aligned to the vision, the values, and what we stand for. That, in itself, is fun. They’re intrinsically-driven. It’s autonomous. As soon as you intrinsically drive them, it’s fun. The second thing we tell them is, “Do what you want, how you want it. I don’t want to know about whether you report at 9:00, 10:00, 12:00, or 4:00. If you intrinsically drive there, you’ll know when to report and what jobs to do, when.” It’s autonomous. They love it.
Druh Shah: I never criticise mistakes. I love to positively tell people, “You’re doing good job. Where can I help you to get better?” That makes it fun. Because they’re becoming competent. They feel that they’re building their confidence. Then, we have fun days out. These are not just fun days out, strategy meetings I call them. The other day we were all had a flight in the 1934 Tiger Moth aeroplane. That was our fun day. But it’s these jokes, these ability to do things, we’d like to do more, I’m not going to deny that. We’re just not there yet. But these are the elements that start bringing in the fun bits. Obviously, we all have a laugh with each other. You can take the piss out of them and I say, “They call me an Ewok, from Star Wars.” And I say, “Fine.” But we have a laugh. Ultimately, if you can’t laugh at yourself, you can’t laugh at anyone else.
Payman L: Take us back to, you told us about that dark day when your dad sent that text about the finance running dry when you were a student. But, and it’s easy to look at Tubules now and think everything’s beautiful. But take us back to your darkest day in Tubules land.
Druh Shah: It’s a whole talk I did last year, the Director’s Day. The darkest day. There’s loads of dark days. Listen, you just find the torch. But last year, in August, Tubules was five days from shutting down. Five days. My wife and kid were back in Kenya when this was happening. I was flying home to pick them up and I was at Dubai airport. If you know Dubai airport, it’s big. I had an eight hour stopover. I paced that airport, cold sweat, because I put my identity, myself on the line for this. I was Tubules. Without it, who was I?
Druh Shah: It was the fact that I’d lost sleep, I’d done everything. “What the hell do I do?” Probably was the worst, darkest day, for various reasons that had happened. But he was almost saying, “Right, it’s going to go.” You’d go home and you fly home and your family and your kid sees you after a few months. Beyond your smile, lies this absolute danger like, “What the hell? We’re gone.” But you know what worried me more, wasn’t me. What worried me most was the fact that if that goes, our team, who rely on me, who believe in me and my vision, are going to go. Tubulites, who use this to inspire themselves, to grow themselves, is going to go. It’s about others.
Druh Shah: That day was very dark. It was, I had no answers. I didn’t know what to do. I think I’ll face that again and again, possibly. But now I know how to deal with it. I was in Salvo, where the foundation school is being built on the edge of a national park. I got to the national park, and you go to this waterfall, and it’s tremendous waters. Absolutely choppy waters, but around it is just peace. There’s no mobile reception, either. I sat there and I had no answers and I just sat there on this rocks and there’s a picture of me, my brother was taken. I just sat there with this water flowing. The one thing I realised, these rocks, they were on messy, choppy waters, but the water was finding its way. I thought, “It’s choppy waters, we’ll find a way.” Flew back home, and I was set one evening and I was just drinking coffee at home, 11:00 at night when I have my coffee.
Druh Shah: I set there and thinking, “Do you know what? I accept that it’s gone.” I literally said, “It’s gone.” I thought, “It doesn’t matter if it’s gone, because the Tubules might have gone, but my values, what I stand for, what I do, hasn’t gone. My purpose isn’t gone.” Tubules hasn’t gone, it’s just a physical representation of it that’s gone. I looked around, I said, “You know what, whether I pass or fail, I’ve fought a valiant battle with true honesty.” Because I did that, I can say I fought the battle. So if it’s gone, I didn’t do it, I was proud of myself. Because of that, my family would think I’m a superhero, and they’d still love me.
Druh Shah: The important things in my life, and I was grateful. I remembered everything I was grateful for. On that darkest day, I remembered whether I pass or fail doesn’t matter because my values, my purpose, my honesty, and my family, the important things remain around me. That was will never go. Those are dark days when they go. The funny thing is, I felt a peace inside me like this burden was lifted off me. Because I suddenly realised, “Those things will always be there.” Suddenly I realised, “Bloody hell, I’ve surpassed a barrier now.” I’ve never lost Tubules. I’ll never lose it. Because it’s in me. I’ll only lose it when I go away, in a coffin some point.
Druh Shah: That gave me the confidence to do things, which I never thought I could do. The company just started rising and rising. I wrote a book amidst all this on the intelligent PDP, which went on Amazon. I wrote that book in three weeks, while I went through this crap. That book.
Payman L: What’s a PDP?
Druh Shah: The Personal Development Plans that we need for the new GDC regulations and all.
Payman L: All those videos you did, they’re so super useful, Man.
Payman L: Someone had to stand up and do that. You just did it.
Druh Shah: I did it. That all came on the back of that book because I had all the knowledge and I put it out. Someone said, “Druh, you should charge for these videos.” I said, “Here you go, Guys. Have it for free.” There were people, we fired it for free.
Payman L: He did something on the, what was it, not CQ, the data?
Druh Shah: GDPR.
Payman L: He did something on the GDPR. Someone needed to stand up and just say, and you did it.
Druh Shah: Yeah.
Payman L: But what you did for the personal development plan, definitely.
Druh Shah: Well, hopefully it helped. Well, people are still using it today, 12-18 months along. That’s how dark days come to light.
Prav Solanki: How did you come out of that hole? You had five days?
Druh Shah: Well, physically-
Prav Solanki: Well, what happened?
Druh Shah: We called suppliers. I mean, I was on the phone to everyone, “Help me out, I’m sweating.” Called suppliers, said, “Look, give us some time. Give us some time. It’ll happen.” I spoke to Tubulites and said, “Listen, Guys, I need your support.” Some of them came out there. Ultimately, then I started to develop. I said, “Listen, PDP, get this shoot-ed message out. If you go on WhatsApp groups in late August last year, I was shooting messages at 6:00 in the morning. “This is how you do PDP. Guys, Tubule’s answers, Tubules does it.” I put it out on Facebook groups, “Listen, this is your answer.” I was intense.
Druh Shah: I was on the phone with people saying, “Get on Tubules.” People were going, “Why?” “Because I need your help. But more importantly, you need me because of this PDP stuff.”
Druh Shah: The membership went up, people realised the value going up, suppliers gave us some breathing space, we just went went went went went. Ultimately, I just connected, oh my God, it was brilliant because ultimately you were doing it as a family, but it was brilliant because I was talking to people at every level, going, “Help me out here. Let’s do this here. Let’s do that.” I was probably on my knees there. But to knock me out would’ve taken a fiver. Suddenly, came the conference and the conference delivered a last pow to people, because they realised it’s not Druh pissing about, he’s serious.
Druh Shah: In October and November, people just went, “Whoa.” Somehow, that message going out all the time, vision, values, all that information, was getting people to believe in us. Like you say, somebody had to. Nobody else was doing it. I did that. I went around the whole country, well over 5000 miles, talking to people about this new CPD and how Tubules helps them. Went to practises, talking to practises, telling practise owners, “Introduce us to some more practise owners.” We started building that network, doing everything we could do. Yeah, lifeline.
Payman L: Druh, I mean, of all the projects in dentistry, yours probably is the most successful for the listeners, everyone’s a listener, I’m sort of holding out air quote. The amount of goodwill for your project, is probably the highest of any project that’s going. Does that not translate to giant sponsorship deals and-
Druh Shah: It could translate to anything. It could translate to someone buying me out. All these things.
Payman L: These struggles, I mean, there’s no point looking at me and Prav. But if I was Dental Direct to your Henry Schein, why wouldn’t I want that halo around? Have you gone to them and said, “Hey?”
Druh Shah: Ultimately, every single person will come to you when they see value in it for them. I could have the biggest community of millions and millions of users in the world, but if you don’t see value, you wouldn’t come there. For us, it was all about working out where our value lies and what it is. While sponsorship deals would come in, the second part was working out well, sponsors will come and say, “We have big checks for you.” big deals. But ultimately, it wasn’t just that, it was, “Can I deliver the value to the other person?” I believe in that straight away.
Druh Shah: We’ve had sponsors who’ve pretty much told us, “We’ll write a big check, but these are the videos and products we want.” I said, “Look, that does conflict with our values and what we stand for. I’m sorry. I’m not going to compromise on my principles at a level because it’s built on that principle.” That’s how we’ve built the user base. Now, I think there’s a very powerful recognition that the user base we’ve got, it isn’t just the quantity of numbers, it’s the quality.
Druh Shah: People don’t come to Tubules to do CPD, they come to Tubules because there’s a powerful learning resource there that’s going to inspire them to grow into better clinicians. Ultimately, that’s what the companies, that’s what people want. Because when you’re there, in a growth phase, now, just the way, after 10 years, you knocked on my door. I can tell you that door’s been knocking. It’s about how we work together with the right people. I’ve always said that. I don’t work with every sponsor. I don’t work with every company. I work with the right people to deliver the right value for them.
Druh Shah: My energy and focus, to a few people, is much more powerful than having my energy and focus to lots and lots of people. I go to these big shows that have 300 stands out there. It’s just an entity, a number. To me, that number has to be value, not an entity or number.
Prav Solanki: Druh, you said some interesting there, that you sort of pricked my ears up. That somebody may buy you out. In my mind, I don’t think you’d ever be for sale.
Druh Shah: Why not, why not?
Prav Solanki: Just let me just take this, qualify what I’m saying here. Is that, I don’t think Druh would ever sell his values.
Payman L: Doesn’t have to sell his values.
Prav Solanki: No, no, no, no, no. Let me just
Payman L: Sorry.
Prav Solanki: So somebody could come along and say, “I’ll give you an obscene amount of money. Just give me Tubules.” You wouldn’t do that, right? Without caveats, clauses, or would you? Is there a magic number where you’d say, “You know what? I’m going to let this go now, and I’m going to do what I want to do.” But what is that what you want to do?
Druh Shah: What I’m doing now.
Prav Solanki: Exactly.
Druh Shah: So David asked me this last year in this middle of this crisis. He said, “Druh, if somebody wrote down a check of 2.5 million, would you?” And that was the value of the company at that point. It’s probably more now. But he said, “Would you go?” I looked at him, I thought hard. I said, “No, my heart wouldn’t let me.”
Prav Solanki: No.
Druh Shah: I think there’s a bigger mission to achieve beyond this. Payman asked me this in Scotland some years ago. He said, “If you won the lottery, would you do what you’re doing now?” Actually, I would do what I’m doing now. I’m actually living the dream. By selling my dream, what am I going to live the nightmare? I don’t know. Ultimately, that’s what it is.
Payman L: Yeah, but this can translate to another scenario. I mean, you can do the foundation could take over, the wildlife photography bit could take over. I mean, you could-
Druh Shah: Ultimately, look, I’ve got to make dentinal Tubules, or the Tubules sort of approach into this big company that changes lives in the world. That’s the vision.
Payman L: That’s the vision.
Druh Shah: But I’ve got to make leaders within the companies. Like any company growing, you know, it’s finance hungry. It’s a monster. You have to release shareholdings. It’s a business level. This project is bigger than me. This project is bigger as a vision.
Payman L: I mean, you’re right. You might be forced to sell.
Druh Shah: If more than forced to sell, it might be I have to bring in more leaders in place, who take the vision. Bill Gates steps back. What’s his name, Satya Nadella, is he Google? Or Microsoft taking over. But you create leaders. Ultimately, I will then be stepping onto the role of then being crucial in the foundation. That’s my journey in life. We all have a journey. I don’t think I’d sell it. I’d think I’d still create leaders who would deliver that vision. There will be that element that goes on and on. Ultimately, that’s how I look at it.
Prav Solanki: Let’s say you were to leave this planet tomorrow for whatever circumstances. Would Tubules survive without you today? Or would it crash and burn?
Druh Shah: It would survive.
Prav Solanki: It would survive.
Druh Shah: It would survive.
Prav Solanki: You’re 100% confident that somebody or someone would take this cause over, drive it, and grow it the way you’d envisioned it?
Druh Shah: I think that they will take it over, they will drive it. They may drive it slightly differently because their vision may be slightly different to mine. That is fine. As long as they continue to help inspire and connect people-
Prav Solanki: Three core values.
Druh Shah: By giving them the motivation, the growth, and the thrive. Those three things, I think it’ll be okay. But that’s not for me to say. While I’m here, I do what my vision delivers. While I’m here, I convey the values. When people walk in, they say, “Those were values we loved.” I will step in. As long as we have people who understand the processes, and the vision, and people who can then say, “That vision was because of these processes,” things will carry on.
Druh Shah: In April this year, I started writing the Tubules manifesto, which is a write-down of every single detail of the company from the vision to each process to each job role and who does what for preparation, for the fact, that I could be hit by a bus anytime. That manifesto sits there to tell people, “Here’s your answers.”
Prav Solanki: If you were hit by a bus tomorrow, how would you want people to remember you?
Druh Shah: As a 5’4″ human being who did what he could. That’s it. I’m a normal person.
Prav Solanki: Your 18 month old, what would you like, “My dad was-”
Druh Shah: Hero to me, made me strong, taught me how to fight battles in life, find my way, and achieve my dreams.
Prav Solanki: Beautiful, beautiful.
Druh Shah: That’s it. Ultimately, we’re all 5’4″ human beings. Well, no, some of us taller. Relatively, all humans doing our job every day. None of us are special. We’ve just got to make it special for all of us, together. That’s it.
Payman L: I think we should leave it right there. We should leave it right there. Thank you so much.
Prav Solanki: Thank you, Druh.
Druh Shah: Awesome, thank you so much.
Payman L: Thank you.
Outro Voice: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Prav Solanki: Thanks for listening, Guys. If you got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing. Just a huge thank you, both from me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we’ve had to say and what our guest has had to say because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.
Payman L: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing and if you would share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it, too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.
Prav Solanki: Don’t forget our six-star rating.